The 75-Year Party

7 04 2008

Seventy-Five years ago, the United States surgically repaired its collective craniorectal inversion and repealed Prohibition. Let us take a moment and reflect on this historic occasion.

A small but very annoying group of Puritans had managed to browbeat everyone else into banning the production, sale, or distribution of alcohol in the United States. This policy was a colossal disaster. Millions of dollars were wasted trying to enforce this ridiculous law. This in turn led to the epic expansion of organized criminal gangs, which grew rich and powerful on the profits from bootlegging. Since drinking was still a popular pastime, huge numbers of people continued to drink booze- even if it meant consorting with hoodlums or making it themselves.  This led to widespread and flagrant disrespect for the law and those who enforced it. Worse still, the majority of Americans- most of whom saw nothing wrong with having a drink- were turned into criminals.

One would think that this catastrophic attempt at legislating morality would have served as a lesson in the futility of such adventures. One would be wrong.

Far from learning a lesson from the Prohibition fiasco, the Puritans among us have kept at it, trying desperately to force their morals upon everyone else. Beer can’t have more than a specific amount of alcohol by volume. You can’t make liquor without a license- even for your own personal use. The penalty for smoking marijuana is legally identical to shooting heroin. Car speedometers can’t show speeds above 80 MPH. People aren’t allowed to have sex in certain ways or at certain times. All of these were legislated at one time or another. Some of them still are.

I’m a firm believer in “live and let live”. I don’t give a shrill soprano hoot in Hell what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes- provided they aren’t hurting others. I’m also a firm believer in telling Mrs. Grundy she can die in a fire. Whenever someone starts a sentence with, “I know it’s none of my business, but …“, I am a firm believer in applying a period after the word “but”. If it’s none of your business, keep your mouth shut. I don’t poke my nose into other people’s business without an invitation, and I expect the same courtesy in return. I seldom get it.

Mind your own business. It’s really that simple. If everyone would mind their own business, there would be a lot less trouble. If someone starts poking their nose into your business, feel free to cordially invite them to eat a bowl of dicks. “I just wanted you to know what I think about what you’re doing …” deserves no courtesy in reply. I would refrain from punching the nosy parker in the face, but loudly telling them to go to Hell with their opinion is certainly warranted.

Now let us project this idea forward into Government. I am a firm believer in, “He governs best who governs least“. Combine that with “Mind your own damned business“, and we have the beginnings of Policy.

In my opinion, the Gummint has no business legislating morality. So long as basic requirements are met (you can find those in the Preamble to the Constitution), the rights of the People (all of them- not just the loudmouths) are respected, and the worst types of crime are made hazardous for the criminals, the Gummint is doing all that is necessary. Anything beyond a strict interpretation of this policy is an unnecessary intrusion into the lives of the People.

For those of you on the Road to Serfdom (the I-5 corridor from San Diego to Seattle), allow me to lay a startling truth upon you: Any powers not expressly permitted the Government by the Constitution are reserved to the People. Period. Full stop. The Constitution is designed to limit the power of Gummint. Governments are made up of fallible humans, and everyone knows what they’re like. Worse, the people who supposedly run our country (our elected representatives) are self-selected as people who want to run things.

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare—most people want to run things but want no part of the blame.

Does that sound familiar? Far too many politicians are getting away with their manifold stupidities, and we (the People) are to blame.

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surely curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

So we’re back to these quotes by Robert Heinlein. What sort of person are you? Are you the sort who is willing to poke your nose into someone’s business out of a desire to “do good”?

If I knew a man was coming to my house with the express purpose of doing me good, I would run for my life.

You believe what you want to believe- just leave me out of it. I don’t want you to save my soul. I’m not interested in submitting to the will of Allah, Jehovah, Zeus, Kali, Amaterasu, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have no interest in hearing joyous news about Angry Invisible Skyman and his Zombie Offspring. I am also profoundly uninterested in any legislation you think necessary because of those beliefs.

Prohibition was an attempt to enforce fundamentalist religious principles on a non-fundamentalist population. That sort of nonsense only breeds repression, resentment, and rebellion. There’s a reason why we have the First Amendment. Prohibition was good evidence that the authors of that Amendment had it right.


Current status: Miffed

Current music: Canon in D by Pachelbel



4 responses

8 04 2008

Regarding speedometers–our old Camaro went up to 120, and today’s “luxury” sports cars (Lamborghini, Alpha Romeo, Bentley, etc.) go past 80 even in this country. Either there’s a speed governor secretly installed in common cars that won’t go past 80, or the dashboard simply ran out of room for speedos to go that high. The car itself likely can and will go past 80, but we aren’t supposed to know that-I regularly pegged out the Corsica while we were in Italy just because I had to keep up in Autostrada traffic….well okay, because I COULD (hee-hee-hee).

I did slow down to a relatively sane 65 when going through Mondragone.

8 04 2008

Wifeypoo– You seem to have missed the point entirely. I wasn’t referring to the capability of the machine, I referred to the speedometer being artificially limited to 80. The idea was to prevent people from going fast because they couldn’t see any numbers past 80. This sort of “Mother knows best, dear” attitude never fails to piss me off. As an engineer, I strenuously object to equipment instrumentation which does not accurately reflect the equipment’s condition.

8 04 2008

Not sure if Road to Serfdom is a jab at West Coast “collectivism” or not, but… I find the idealism and antics of the fringe ‘lefties’/hippies/whatever to be far less scary than the fanaticism of the ‘righties’/cultists/Mormons/whatever.

In fact, I think that the ‘opt in’ communities/communes/etc. that dot the Weird West are probably on the right track (in an odd sort of way). That’s not to say that they’re free of overbearing rules, but those folks know what they’re signing up for.

Prohibition of alcohol was just the most invasive and visible element of the puritanical jerks in this country. I see that ‘movement’ continuing all the time, just about every time I open a newspaper.

Nice piece of writing. As usual!

9 04 2008

butchrobotpope– “The Road to Serfdom” was a book about people voluntarily giving up their rights so the Government could take care of them. My Beloved Wenchiepoo decided that the I-5 corridor from the Mexican to the Canadian borders seemed to have this attitude in spades (especially in California), so she dubbed that highway the Road to Serfdom after reading the book.

In case I haven’t made it clear, that whole “Gummint is Father and Mother” idea is anathema to me. I spend most of my time trying to keep the Gummint out of my life and make my own decisions. Far too many people living in cities on the Left Coast (and clustered around the I-5 corridor) seem to go the opposite way, and appear to be bound and determined to force everyone else in the country to follow suit. They’re just as Puritanical in their world view as the Massachussetts colony circa 1675 (or many evangelicals today), and just as unlikely to leave me to mind my own business while they mind theirs.

Some world views are spacious, and some are merely spaced.

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